Monday, March 17, 2014

Travelling on the long-distance bus

We went to Christchurch and back on the bus. Six hour trip. First time we've used it together, I think, and my first time since I had a very unpleasant experience of not taking the opportunity in Ashburton to go to the loo, and then finding I was very sore when I got to ChCh an hour and a half later. Though admittedly this was in the days before I had my prostate operation, so that would have been part of the problem. (My book on my prostate operation experiences is well on its way - should be out by mid-year, I'd expect).

The driver of the northbound bus (from Dunedin to Christchurch, for those who don't know what I'm talking about) was very pleasant, did a bit of spiel about different towns and gave us the list of rules without being too high-handed about it. These included what you couldn't eat on the bus (which turned out to be a bit of a nuisance as we'd brought lunch with us and coffee, and had to wait till we got to Oamaru, about an hour and a half into the trip, before we could get our lunch) and the fact that you needed to wear the seatbelts provided. It's the law in NZ he reminded us. Law or not, very few people put their seatbelts on.

The driver on the southbound trip was much more blunt, and when I asked if he stopped anywhere for comfort stops and a bit of stretching the legs, he replied, Nope. Stopping in Timaru for twenty minutes. This was about half way on a six hour trip, so if you were desperate you would have had to have made a considerable fuss to get him to stop for you. The other driver had made five-minute stops at reasonable intervals, which made sense to me. Driver number two was troubled by the fact that he had a lot of pickups along the way, and a detour to Waimate, so comfort stops were out of the question. As it was he made it into Dunedin a quarter of an hour ahead of time. And never mentioned seatbelts.

It's certainly more relaxing on a bus; if you want you can look at the scenery. Or you can go to sleep (though sleeping upright has never been a great preference for me), or you can read, or can listen to a CD story, or...whatever takes your fancy within the confines of the space allotted to two passengers. No problems with driving, or other drivers, or sitting with the foot on the accelerator for six hours at a time. And the luggage allowance is far superior to that allowed when travelling by air. No restrictions, effectively. You can take what you want inside the bus, and leave the rest in the bus' hold. A European couple who were travelling with two small children, managed to get two very large bike-cum-stroller things in the hold, though I think it was a bit of a pinch. But there would have been plenty of room for the kitchen sink, if you so desired.

We were untroubled by any difficult or noisy passengers, except in the last hour or so when two male students sitting on either side of the aisle just behind us (with two young girls - not connected to either of them - seated in the adjacent window seats) began to talk about things that shouldn't be spoken about in public. They'd been discussing all sorts of other young male interests before that, mostly geek sort of stuff, but then one of them got onto his private life, and not only did he reveal more than anyone wanted to hear, his vocabulary whittled down to what my wife said was only five or six basic words. That might have been a slight exaggeration, but it was certainly surprising that someone was so unaware of other people that he could speak so openly without any sense that it might offend those around him. Fortunately the general noise in the bus obliterated some of it, but not completely. Amazing how self-focused some people are that they don't think that their words are being heard by far more than the intended recipient.

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